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Pragmatism need of the hour for Iran issue
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August 2 was the deadline for Iran to make clear if it accepts or not the plan to resume talks on its nuclear ambition with the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

But, on July 30, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki denied a deadline actually existed and emphasized the ultimatum-like warning by the major powers meant nothing to Iran.

That means Javier Solana, high representative for the common foreign and security policy of the European Union, was only talking about his own wish or "hope" when he said after meeting with Mottaki in Geneva on July 19 that "Iran will make a definite reply within two weeks" rather than an agreement between the two sides.

The international community's anticipation for some progress in the political and diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue was dashed once again.

This development is truly regrettable, because, unlike past meetings where Solana represented the "5+1" nations (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council the US, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany) for talks with the Iranian side, this time the number-3 man at the US State Department, Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns, was in Geneva as the US representative, as were representatives of the other five countries, on July 19.

In addition to the show of importance the "5+1" nations attached to this meeting, the encouragement solution package proposed by the six major powers was also "very generous".

The US even expressed three wishes of good will toward Iran before the Geneva talks: to establish a representative office in Teheran; President George W. Bush stating clearly that Washington still keeps the resolution of the Iran nuclear issue by political and diplomatic means as priority, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's repeated offer to negotiate directly with the Iranian side "any time" and "anywhere".

For the US, whether it was a real desire to adjust relevant policies or a decision forced by various circumstances, the gestures represented an effort to let its hair down, give political and diplomatic means another chance and, more importantly, test Iran's bottom line.

On Iran's part, it, too, extended an olive branch a few times before the post-Geneva spat. One such gesture was a willingness to consider a formal decision on the US request to establish an office representing American interests in Teheran. Another was to reply in writing to the proposal by "5+1" nations.

Still another, expressed after the July 19 Geneva talks, was that Iran was willing to hold more bargains. And yet another, in the form of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's words spoken on July 28, that "Iran would be faced with a kind of new situation and the Iranian people would respond positively" if what the recent US gestures signaled Washington had changed its stance toward Iran.

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